Squamish sits in the midst of some amazing places to hike. Garibaldi Provincial Park sprawls from Squamish up and beyond Whistler. Tantalus Provincial Park lays across the valley to the west and the beautiful and desolate, by comparison, Callaghan Valley to the north. Add to that the smaller and locally cherished Provincial Parks, Alice Lake, Stawamus Chief, Shannon Falls and Murrin, make Squamish a world class hiking destination.
Alice Lake Provincial Park is a great place for camping, swimming, fishing and hiking in Squamish. The park is comprised of four lakes. Stump, Fawn and Edith Lake as well as the much larger Alice Lake. There is a nice trail that runs amongst them all. There is a large beach area, a pier and dock along with an astonishing 107 vehicle accessible campsites and 55 of those have electrical hookups. The campsites are open March 15 to October 31. This place is a hive of activity in the summer due to its beautiful setting and convenient location. Alice Lake Provincial Park is located just 10 minutes north of Squamish on the Sea to Sky Highway. Driving from Squamish you will see a huge "Alice Lake Provincial Park" sign on the right side of the highway and the park is almost immediately after the turnoff. Fires are allowed near the beach in the fire rings scattered throughout the park. You can bring your own firewood or buy it at the park. Pets must be on a leash in the park at all times. Bears and cougars frequent the area. Though bears are relatively skittish, cougars are potentially very dangerous, especially with regards to small children or other pets. Though encounters are infrequent, they are possible and you will see signs regarding both cougars and bears at Alice Lake.
Why should you go to Alice Lake Provincial Park in Squamish?
Alice Lake is an idyllic lake surrounded by lush, green forests and endless snowy mountains beyond. The swimming and fishing are great and the relaxing hiking trails in the park are nice. Picnic tables and BBQ pits dot the park's grassy field adjacent to the lake. It is a wonderful place to easily enjoy the wilderness and lakes around Squamish.
Elfin Lakes is a wonderfully accessible mountain paradise at the southern end of the mighty in Squamish. An amazing destination on its own, Elfin Lakes is also part of a gateway to so much more. The Gargoyles, Little Diamond Head, Opal Cone... There is a wonderful, extremely well equipped hut and campsites as well as a ranger station at the lakes. Staying at the amazing hut costs $15, cash only. You can pay with cash using an envelope drop-box at the trailhead or you can pre-pay through the BCParks site online. Which sounds expensive until you see it. It looks more like a ski lodge than a mountain hut. Complete with solar powered lights, heat, propane stoves and room for 33 to sleep. You will find envelopes to pay at the trailhead. Camping away from the hut costs $10. Once again that seem expensive, but the area is very beautiful and popular so park rangers are nearly always around to keep things nice and functional. The Elfin Lakes trail starts out ascending through deep forest, reaching the Red Heather Hut after 5k. This is a small warming hut equipped with a wood stove complete with a stack of wood free to use. Though sleeping here is for emergencies only, the Red Heather Hut is warm and welcoming.
The final 6k from this hut to Elfin Lakes takes you along a beautiful ridge with amazing views of snowy mountains all around. The sheer distance of this snowshoeing trail ranks it as difficult. Also, there is a considerable amount of elevation gain and loss along the way and you move through several gradual peaks and valleys...
Why should you hike Elfin Lakes in Garibaldi Park, Squamish?
Elfin Lakes is a stunning mountain paradise. Deep forest, lush green meadows, hills, valleys, and mountains all around. The trail is a fairly challenging, and consistently ascending route through this magnificent wilderness near the southern end of Garibaldi Provincial Park. This Diamond Head entrance to Garibaldi Park in Squamish is quite busy, however, even on popular weekends it is nice and serene. The 11 kilometre length to the Elfin Lakes Hut, spreads out the hikers quite a bit and the terrain around the hut offers endless hiking opportunities in a number of directions. What an amazing place, Garibaldi Provincial Park is!
High Falls Creek is a great hike not only for the beautiful scenery in and around the trail, but the drive to it as well. The often passed by Squamish Valley Road, just of the Sea to Sky Highway, opposite the Alice Lake Provincial Park access road, is wonderful. This glacier carved valley stretches on and on, along the majestic Squamish River as you follow forest service roads 26 kilometres to the trailhead. The High Falls trail is well marked and difficult to moderately challenging. There are some short chain assisted areas to climb and overall the trail is fairly steep. You gain a gruelling 622 metres in less than 4 kilometres. Past the beautiful falls viewpoints the trail leads to a few more cliff viewpoints before ending at the Branch 200 FSR. You can either turn back and retrace the steep trail you came back to your car (8 kilometres roundtrip). Most prefer to walk the forest service road back to the trailhead instead. It is much longer (almost 2 kilometres longer), but it is easy and relaxing and there are some stunning views of the river valley below. This road takes you back to the S Main FSR where you will turn left onto and walk about 1.4 kilometres to get back to your car.
Why should you hike to High Falls Creek in Squamish?
High Falls Creek is located far up Squamish Valley and the drive alone is worth doing. A quiet and very scenic country road that follows the massive Squamish River as it winds its way through the Valley. The High Falls Creek trailhead is tricky to find and you get the impression that this part of the world is well off the radar. On a weekday you won't see another hiker and on a weekend you may only see a dozen. If you like a workout the trail is great for that. The chain pull sections make you feel like you are in the army and the the route is barely worn, making the wilderness around you feel even more wild.
Shannon Falls towers above Howe Sound at 335 metres as the third tallest falls in BC. The wonderful, though very short trail winds through a beautiful old growth forest to get to the base of the falls. From your car to the viewpoint takes only about four minutes, however the trail continues a bit further to a higher viewpoint (five minutes higher). You can even continue along the trail and join with the Stawamus Chief trail which goes to the three summits of the Chief. The trail to the Chiefs peaks are very steep and almost constant stairs to be prepared for quite a workout comparable to the Grouse Grind in Vancouver. The trailhead is just south of the Stawamus Chief trailhead, south of Squamish. The Chief is the mammoth rock face that towers over Squamish. Though hardly believable from looking at, the summit is only a one hour hike. In fact there are three peaks, South (First), Centre (Second), and North (Third). Each accessible from the single trailhead. The trailhead to the Chief is easy to find. From highway 99, in Squamish. As you approach the Chief, visible for several kilometres, watch for the sign for "Stawamus Chief." The large parking lots are arranged next to the trailhead. There is a nice campground, with plenty of tent sites at the trailhead. A better route for a day hike is to start at Shannon Falls, it only adds about 1km but includes the spectacular Shannon falls as well as a nicer route as it joins the trail to the Chief part way up. The Upper Shannon Falls Trail extends past Shannon Falls.
Why should you go to Shannon Falls Provincial Park in Squamish?
Shannon Falls Provincial Park is about as convenient and easy as it gets to see an amazing waterfall. Visible from the Sea to Sky Highway, Shannon Falls crashes surprisingly huge and loud. The viewpoint to see the falls is very close and you can almost feel the ground shudder from the enormous volume of water cascading down in front of you. Shannon Falls Provincial Park can be your starting point for both the Stawamus Chief and the Upper Shannon Falls trail.
Stawamus Chief is the mammoth rock face that towers over . Though hardly believable from looking at, the summit is an easy two hour hike. In fact there are three peaks, South (First), Centre (Second), and North (Third). Each accessible from the single trailhead. Growing in popularity as the newest brother to the Grouse Grind in Vancouver because there are quite a few stairs and considerable elevation gain. 540 metres in 1.5k. (The Grouse Grind is 853 metres in 2.9k) The trailhead to the Chief is easy to find. From highway 99, in Squamish. As you approach the Chief, visible for several kilometres, watch for the sign for "Stawamus Chief." The large parking lots are arranged next to the trailhead. There is a nice campground with 47 tent sites. This part of the world is somewhat expensive so this is an amazingly cheap option at $8 per person, per night. Officially open May 15 - October 12. If you go outside these dates you just have to walk in from outside the gates and camping is free however there are no services available which means that the washrooms may be locked and no water available (though there is a river nearby). There are no shower facilities here any time of the year but a large river near the campsites.
Why should you hike the Chief in Squamish?
Stawamus Chief is an exhausting, yet short climb to one unbelievable viewpoint after another. The trail has some good sights on the way and runs through a beautiful forest. The peaks, 1, 2 and 3 get progressively more amazing. The vertical cliffs are frightening as you edge ever closer. Bring a lunch or bottle of wine. Sitting on the chief taking in the view can take while. Don't forget to bring some food for all the little furry creatures that inhabit the peaks. They are very friendly and adorable, and will crawl up your arm to snatch a peanut off your shoulder if you are still enough.
The wonderful Upper Shannon Falls trail goes almost completely unnoticed, branching off from the chaotically popular Stawamus Chief trail. About 15 minutes along the Stawamus Chief trail you will see a well marked trail branch off to the right into the forest. This is the Upper Shannon Falls Trail and is remarkably unused. This is a wonderful fact though as hundreds hike the Chief on any given weekend day, though only a handful hike this trail. The Upper Shannon Falls trail, the Stawamus Chief trail and Shannon Falls Provincial Park are all connected by trails. In order to see all three you should park in the Shannon Falls parking lot and hike up to the Shannon Falls viewpoint just a short 5 minute walk from the parking lot, then proceed from there to connect with the Stawamus Chief trail, about 15 minutes further up the trail. Once you connect with the Stawamus Chief trail you will see clear signs directing you to either the Upper Shannon Falls trail, or to continue on the main trail to one or all of the Chiefs 1st Peak trail, 2nd Peak trail, 3rd Peak trail. If you plan on hiking both the Upper Shannon Falls trail and one or all of the Chief peaks, be prepared for an arduous day as the distance is not very much, but the continuous elevation gain will be hard. But as long as you are in for a good workout.. as many do.. Doing both the Chief and the Upper Shannon Falls trails in the same day is amazing!
Why should you hike to Upper Shannon Falls in Squamish?
Upper Shannon Falls is a short and almost easy trail that takes you past the beautiful Shannon Falls, up along part of the Chief trail and then deep into the wild and deep forest trail to Upper Shannon Falls. Then if you continue further along the trail you come to some amazing viewpoints high above Squamish. If you can manage an evening hike, the sunsets are incredible.